His decision will prioritize how he fits within an offense.
The stock of Lafayette transfer tight end Steven Stilianos is rising. On Thursday, Virginia became the 11th program to offer Stilianos a scholarship since he entered the transfer portal last month.
“It’s somewhere that’s just going to utilize the tight end position,” Stilianos told The Daily Progress about what he’s seeking from his next destination, “and put me in places to succeed and showcase what I can do. And obviously, somewhere I can earn some playing time and be pretty involved in the offense.”
Stilianos said he’d be in Charlottesville for an official visit with the Cavaliers beginning Friday.
He already has had conversations, he said, with new Hoos offensive coordinator Des Kitchings and longtime wide receivers coach Marques Hagans about the ways in which he can impact UVa’s unit.
During his four seasons at Lafayette, Stilianos recorded 65 catches for 534 yards and five touchdowns. He was an All-Patriot League first-team choice this past fall and last spring.
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The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder will graduate with an engineering degree from Lafayette in May and then have two years of eligibility left at the school he heads to next.
“[Kitchings] said his background is a West Coast, pro-style offense that uses the tight end,” Stilianos said, “and then obviously, [UVa coach Tony] Elliott has been more of an 11-personnel guy at Clemson. And he’s a great offensive mind with all the success they’ve had.
“But [Kitchings] said they’re kind of going to combine what they’ve done, what’s worked and just put together what is going to be their optimal offense.”
Stilianos said UVa coaches have told him the team is in need of a transfer tight end due to Jelani Woods’ decision to leave for the NFL. Woods was stellar in his lone season with the Cavs in 2021 after transferring to UVa from Oklahoma State, becoming an All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-teamer after hauling in eight touchdown catches.
“They’re looking for someone to be able to come in and help them right away,” Stilianos said, “which I think I can definitely do. You have to prove it, but wherever I’m going to go I’m going to work hard and show them what I’ve got.”
Aside from UVa, Stilianos said he’s considering making other visits to East Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and Wake Forest. Of those schools, he’s claimed offers from East Carolina, Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple. He’s also earned offers from Albany, Connecticut, Georgia Southern, James Madison, Rhode Island and Sam Houston State.
Stilianos said the past few weeks while being recruited out of the portal have been so different from what he experienced when he was only offered by Lafayette and Davidson out of Christchurch School — a small private high school in eastern Virginia near the Rappahannock River, where Stilianos played quarterback and defensive end.
He said he was able to develop into an all-league tight end in college thanks to the help of former Lafayette coach John Garrett.
“His offense was great and it was 12-personnel heavy and used the tight ends a lot,” Stilianos said. “Then, obviously, working hard and being coachable, too, helped and I just learned the tricks of the trade fast.”
Stilianos said it’s rewarding to earn the attention of Power Five programs now.
“Pretty validating,” he said, “just to see that all the hard work and hours I’ve put in aren’t being wasted. It’s being noticed by other people, and I know everyone in my corner and I knew that I always could do it, but right now having that validation from other coaches is really cool to see.”
O-Line transfer to watch
Another offer from UVa to a former Patriot League standout went out on Thursday.
Georgetown offensive lineman Mac Hollensteiner claimed an offer from the Cavaliers, and he said he was thrilled to land it.
“As a kid, I’d watch UVa and dream of putting that jersey on,” Hollensteiner said, “and now that this opportunity could become a reality, it’s a surreal feeling for me. So, I’m really excited about the process and hopeful to see this thing go in the right direction.”
Hollensteiner said he’s been to Scott Stadium in the past for games. His mom’s side of the family is from Virginia Beach and he has an aunt and extended family who attended UVa, so he’s familiar with the atmosphere in Charlottesville.
He said in high school, his Landon School (Bethesda, Md.) squad played against ex-Cavaliers standout Charles Snowden’s St. Albans School (Washington, D.C.) team. So while with the Hoyas, Hollensteiner paid attention to Snowden’s career at UVa from afar.
With Georgetown, Hollensteiner played tackle, but said he let Cavaliers offensive line coach Garett Tujague know he’s open to playing anywhere on the front.
“Coach Tujague said they’re planning on taking three transfers — one center, one guard, one tackle,” Hollensteiner said. “He said he sees me playing tackle, but thinks I have the size and the strength to play inside as well, so position versatility is marketable.”
UVa is in the process of retooling its offensive line following the decisions by four former starters to transfer elsewhere. Hollensteiner said having a chance to earn playing time right away is enticing to him.
He has two years of eligibility remaining.
“In this next chapter, I really want to push my limits and play at the highest level that I possibly can,” he said. “And you know, I want to go to a school where football is important and it’s kind of that football-school culture where you got thousands of fans coming out to the games and everyone has support for the team and all of that. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Hollensteiner has earned 30 other offers since entering the portal in late November. Some of his others include Colorado, East Carolina, Fresno State, Michigan State and Oklahoma State.